(Credit: Screenshots: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

Anyone who's browsed the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store knows that games have a huge presence, with their own dedicated sections. Naturally, Google wants to keep the party going elsewhere, so in 2015, it launched YouTube Gaming as a separate app, with an emphasis on live streaming to take on Twitch, the established leader.

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Unfortunately, it looks like Twitch's position has proved to be a mountain that even Google can't move, and there was some confusion among users about what the specific distinctions were between the YouTube's two apps. But instead of scrapping YouTube Gaming, The Verge reports today that Google is bringing this venture back into the fold of the regular YouTube app (Android, iOS), with some interesting improvements.

First of all, this content category now gets its own landing page at youtube.com/gaming. On mobile, you can check out the new digs by tapping the Trending button at the bottom, then Gaming at the top.

Looking at the desktop version of the new YouTube Gaming, one sees a few similarities to Twitch (Android, iOS), such as the live stream going on in the background as soon as you load the page (though it's dimmed to keep it from being too distracting). Scrolling down will show you a set of "Top Live Games," ranked according to how many users are livestreaming them.

Below that, you'll find "Videos from your subscriptions," and this can be a mix of both live and pre-recorded video. If one of your subscribed channels is scheduled to go live, you may see a "Set Reminder" button just below the title of the video.

(Credit: Screenshots: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

Below this is a new feature called "Gaming Creator on the Rise." This is a manual curation that spotlights one YouTube influencer's selection of videos. The first featured influencer is Erin Plays, whose recent clips have her working through a number of retro titles like Mega Man and Dig Dug. Speaking to The Verge, a YouTube representative said that this section will refresh once a week with a new influencer.

Further down the page, things start getting a little looser. The "Upcoming Live Streams" and "Trending Videos" sections don't appear to be meaningfully influenced by your subscriptions or viewing history, so it may be a bit of a grab bag.

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Below these is the Recommended section, which does use input from you to populate its suggestions. Unfortunately, YouTube is kind of notorious for missing the mark here, particularly because it keeps suggesting videos related to something that you only briefly looked at weeks or even months earlier. There's also no way to sort this list.

Fortunately, the search function fares much better. Now, instead of the right-hand column listing only recommended videos, there may be a large card at the top with the game's title on it. Clicking or tapping this card will take you to a landing page specific to that game, which you can subscribe to. Being able to follow a game instead of a specific channel may be a good way to surface channels that you haven't seen yet.

This landing page has tabs specifically for live streams, "Let's Play" videos, recent uploads, and an Explore section. This last one breaks down separate elements of the game. Taking God of War, for example, its Explore section has specific subsections for video reviews, gameplay clips, cutscenes, the soundtrack, and the ending of the game's story.

(Credit: Screenshots: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

If you're looking for videos about a specific game, this is altogether superior to how YouTube searches worked before.

The mobile version's search function didn't feature this game card during our testing, but searching for God of War did produce the "Explore" subsections we found on the landing page -- and then some. In addition to all the sections of the desktop version, the mobile version has God of War video categories that isolate specific characters, locations, and even in-game items.

YouTube Gaming may not have succeeded as a standalone mobile app, but the company seems to be a doing a good job of turning those lemons into lemonade, so far. As we head into the holiday shopping season where the bulk of video game releases occur, the video streaming platform's new gaming mettle will be tested for all to see.

The takeaways

  • Google is dropping the standalone YouTube Gaming app and reintroducing a game section in the main app.
  • The new section lets you do things like set reminders for an upcoming live stream, subscribe to individual games, and navigate topical subsections like video reviews or strategy guides.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.